Southeast Hawthorne’s Evoe has been one of the best restaurants in the city since it opened in 2008 with Kevin Gibson at the helm. His minimalist, made-to-order, market-obsessed cuisine has drawn endless critical acclaim locally (see Portland Monthly’s Best Restaurants in 2010) and nationally: Bon Appetit’s restaurant editor, Andrew Knowlton, dubbed him a “mad genius” in a recent interview. The paperwork is being sorted, but Gibson tells us he has a deal in the works for a still unnamed, 52-seat restaurant in the former June space on 2215 East Burnside Street. His restaurant will offer the spare, bright Northwest flavors that put Evoe on the map. Projected opening: November.
In 1999, long before it became a launching pad for modernist chefs like Matthew Lightner and Justin Woodward, Gibson opened Castagna, an impressive, high-end affair that wowed food critics, but eluded local diners. Nine years later, Gibson pulled a 180 to help launch Evoe under the umbrella of Pastawork’s specialty food brand. After five years, he is giving restaurant ownership another spin.
“It’ll be more Evoe, less Castagna…but with more time and focus put into the food,” says Gibson. The biggest difference between Evoe and his new place? The hardware. Since the day they opened, Gibson has cooked on an electric stove with a plug-in Panini press while slicing vegetables on the same dining room table as his customers. The June space, which shuttered two months ago, will undergo a few cosmetic changes (“get rid of that woodsy feel, make it more open, lighten it up”), but otherwise remain the same.
Dishes will run between appetizer and entrée size, but Gibson insists, “not small plates.” The restaurant will open for late lunch, serving small, wine-friendly bites, and transition to a larger, more structured menu as the evening progresses. Cocktails will be classic and uncomplicated at the fully stocked, 12-seat bar, while the wine list will lean towards crisp European whites. Gibson will be aided in the dining room by Kurt Heilemann, the former general manager and wine man for Paley’s Place and Clarklewis.
Above all, food will be market driven, with a focus on fish, hand-filled pastas, “little birds,” braised meats, and plenty of vegetable play. If he had to open today, Gibson says the menu might look like this: agnolotti duck egg pasta stuffed with mascarpone, seared scallops on a fresh porcini and fennel salad, squab breast stuffed with swiss chard, and flourless hazelnut cake with poached apricot and ginger syrup for dessert.
“In my mind, I haven’t really been cooking at Evoe,” says Gibson, “just doing stuff I can get away with given the space and equipment. I’m looking forward to getting back into a real kitchen.”
More details as they become available.